Friday, 8 January 2010

A Warm Story for a Friday

The lives of two young Afghan girls from Helmand province have been saved by military medics, after they fell victim to a Taliban improvised explosive device while out playing.

While playing near their home in Musa Qala, a district in the north of Helmand Province, Kamila, 3, and Wasila, 6, were seriously injured by an IED which had earlier been laid by insurgents. Kamila took the brunt of the explosion and suffered severe head injuries; while Wasila endured shrapnel wounds to her stomach, causing liver damage.

Kamila's father took the children to Musa Qala District Centre, knowing that coalition troops based there would help. Their injuries were so severe that a British Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) was mobilised, and the girls were flown via a British Chinook helicopter to the military multinational hospital, at Kandahar Airfield.

MERTs are launched for coalition, local national and suspected insurgent casualties with the requests being prioritized according to medical urgency.

Lieutenant Andrew Jelinek, from the Household Cavalry Battle Group, operates in Musa Qala, the area where girls were injured. He said:

"IEDs laid by insurgents take a terrible toll on innocent civilians. They have had a deadly effect on British and coalition forces but it is the ordinary Afghan people that are hit the hardest. Unfortunately, children are the frequent victims of Taleban IEDs and, sadly, the story of Kamila and Wasila is far from unique.

"It is only thanks to the work of British soldiers that there are not more incidents of this kind.

"Back home we think we worry about our kids' safety when they go out to play but here it's on a different scale. The dangers the local kids face here when they are out playing are life and death. The Taliban just don't give a stuff about them. They plant these bombs knowing kids might set them off but they just don't care. If they did they wouldn't do it."

Doctor Kao, their Canadian attending physician, who has seen several tours in Afghanistan, added:

"Before Kamila arrived, we had a young boy with similar injuries who died, so we were all very nervous about her chances of recovery. After initial treatment, the signs were not good, as she could not move her left side and was unable to express emotion.

"Although there were to be further complications, Kamila is now interacting with the people around her and even smiling. We consider Kamila our miracle child. She was such a morale booster, because we see so many kids that do not make it."

During their recovery, the girls loved to go out to the flight line and wave at the helicopters taxiing past and got very excited when the crew waved back. With the onset of winter, the girls were presented with new coats and shoes and, for a while, they refused to take them off, wearing them everywhere.

Kamila's father stayed close throughout the girls' treatment. Through an interpreter he reported that he was very happy with the care that they had received. However, he did have some concerns of what might happen upon their return. He said it would be dangerous, as the Taliban may ask him where they have been.
Now that is an obvious worry.

Kamila and her family will continue to receive medical support from the Forward Operating Base closest to their home.

The girls enjoyed a flight back to Musa Qala District Centre on board a British Chinook that was returning on routine tasking. As the helicopter flew away from the hospital, the medical staff were clearly moved by the loss of their young charges, but grateful that the girls' recovery allowed them to go home.


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